Race Etiquette

Whether you’re taking part in the Virgin Money London Marathon or a smaller event, our guide to race etiquette has everything you need to know for the day, from good manners to your personal safety.

Before the race

  • Make sure you pin your race number on, including a number on your back if required. At most races you’ll be provided with pins, but it’s a good idea to bring some of your own too. Try to avoid folding or covering your race number - it needs to be seen by the race marshals.
  • Larger events will have a baggage truck where you can leave your belongings and pick them up at the end of the race. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully and write your name and race number clearly on your bag. Don’t give your bag to anyone other than friends, family or the baggage truck staff.
  • Try not to bring any valuables with you to the event. If anything goes missing or you see anything suspicious, make sure you report it to the nearest race marshal or police officer.
  • Listen out for announcements in case any race details change, for example if the start time is delayed. In a large crowd it’s the only way the race organisers will be able to communicate with you and you don’t want to miss anything important.
  • Plan your visits to the toilet carefully as there are likely to be queues near the start of the race.
  • Be aware of other people around you as you warm up for the race. If possible, pick an area away from the crowd to stretch.
  • Make sure you’re in the correct starting position – at larger races this is usually based on the time you expect to finish, with faster runners towards the front. This is important because it means faster runners aren’t forced to change course to overtake and slower runners don’t feel they’re constantly being overtaken. If you’re not sure of your expected finish time, keep towards the back of the crowd.

During the race

  • Don’t let friends who aren’t taking part in the race run or cycle alongside you. It can cause problems for the other runners and you may be accused of having a ‘pacer’ which is banned at most races.
  • If you’re running in a group, be aware of people behind you who may need to get past. Try to run in single file rather than across the width of the road. If you’re overtaking someone else, make sure you leave plenty of room before you move across in front of them.
  • Try to avoid stopping suddenly during the race. For example if you need to tie your laces, move towards the side of the road and find a safe place to stop first.
  • Be aware of other people at drinks stations, and take your turn if there’s a crowd. Avoid running out in front of others to take your drink, and only take as much as you need.
  • Use the bins provided for empty water bottles – other runners might trip over them if they’re left on the floor.
  • If you have to queue for the toilet during a race, avoid queuing in the path of other runners. Please note at smaller and rural events, toilet facilities might not be provided.
  • Listen carefully to any instructions you’re given by the race marshals and remember to thank them for their help – most marshals are volunteers who have been kind enough to give up their time.
  • If you’re running in a town or city, be aware of the traffic around you as some roads may not be fully closed for the event.
  • Make sure you know where your finish line is. If marathon and half marathon runners are competing on the same course, one group may need to finish on the left and the other on the right.

After the race

  • When you cross the finish line, you’ll be directed to an area where the marshals will record your results, and remove any tags or chips. Although you’ll probably be keen to move on and get a drink, remember to wait your turn.
  • Only take as much food and drink as you need at the finish line. If you’ve finished the race quickly it may look like there’s plenty left, but often it’s the right amount for the number of entrants.
  • Remember to take all your belongings and litter home with you.